With a day off for the Twins, I wish to review some early year surpirses and disappointments throughout the MLB. Tomorrow, the Twins start a series against Texas that will be key, as they jockey for top position with the White Sox.
Top 5 Surprises:
1) Jon Garland
The White Sox have had a resurgance this year. As my associate has pointed out, however, it likely will not last. It can't because the White Sox have a terrible defensive team ("Smart ball" is so ridiculous) and you can't expect too much from a White Sox pitching staff filled with past failures. However, Garland has gone an A.L. leading 6-0 with a 2.42. Finally learning to use his sinker to his advantage, Garland has vastly improved over last year's mediocre numbers (4.89 ERA, 34 homers allowed). However, after allowing 6 runs in 5 and 2/3 innings in his last start, Garland's luck may be starting to run out.
2) Brian Roberts
Where did this guy come from? Ranking within the top three of every Triple Crown category, Roberts is currently hitting .370 with 10 HR and 30 RBs as a leadoff hitter! He's projected to hit 49 HR and 147 RBI for the season, numbers equivalent to Todd Helton's 2000 Season. While its clear Roberts can't keep this up, with the numbers he's already produced, this is clearly a breakout season. He should have at least 25-30 HRs over the course of the season, hit at least .300, and with the offense around him, around 90 RBIs. Thats just based on Roberts' track record, which suggests he just isn't this kind of hitter. We can only wait and see.
3) Clint Barmes
Though he is playing in the knowlingly stats-inflating atmosphere that is Coors Field, its hard to ignore what the rookie shortstop has done so far this year. He is leading the majors with a .395 average and his team with 5 HRs and 19 RBIs. However, with his 6 errors so far and 42.9 percent base-stealing percentage, Barmes hasn't been perfect. We can expect 20 HRs and 80 RBIs from him and given the history of Coors, I'm sure he'll hit at least .315 with plenty of doubles (Vinny Castilla anyone?).
4) Brandon Lyon
A Boston Red Sox castaway acquired in the Curt Schilling trade, Lyon spent all of last year recovering from an elbow injury. However, after Arizona's closer Greg Aquino went on the DL, Lyon was thrown into the closer's role this year. And has he been good: 13 saves in 14 opportunities, a 1.56 ERA, all contributing greatly to Arizona's surprise 20-15 start this year. Of course, he hasn't struck out many for a premier closer (11 in 17 innings) and he has given up 19 hits in 17.1 (another no-no for most closers) yet he has been very effective. Like Danny Kolb last year and others before him, I don't expect Lyon to break the 57 saves record with the 60 he is projected so far. However, he should have a good 40-45 saves in a year that will show the talent he has long possesed.
5) Derrek Lee
This has been a breakout year by all measurements for Lee, a player who has been good for a long while, but has never shown the greatness within him. This year is a different story. For a player who has had a career of starting bad in April and May, Lee is hitting .383 while leading the NL with 10 HRs and 33 RBIs. For a player who has never had 35 HRs, 100 RBIs, or 100 walks, he is sure looking like a premier player in the league of Pujols and Helton. His .476 OBP is likely his most impressive stat, as he is projected to break all those barriers this year and I think Lee can do that. He should end the year with 35-40 HRs, 110 RBI, and around 100 walks. Not to mention a Gold Glove. He would be a very probable MVP candidate if not for the fact his team is doing oh-so-terrible this year.
Top 5 Disappointments:
1) Adrian Beltre
The former Dodgers slugger who had a breakout season last year, hitting .334 with 48 HRs and 121 RBI, got a 5 year, $64 million deal from the Seattle Mariners brokered by the infamous super-agent Scott Boras in the off-season. So far, Beltre has completely flopped. In May, where the Mariners have gone a putrid 1-9, Beltre has had four extra-base hits in 40 ABs. For the year, he's hitting .241 with 3 HRs and 19 RBIs with a disguisting .271 OBP. For a hitter of his caliber, or what he showed last year (Roids?) he should be doing much better. I'd say Richie Sexson is just as much of a disappointment, but he's done what he has been paid to do: Hit for power. Sure, he's hitting .224, but Sexson has never been an average hitter. Like Adam Dunn, he strikes out a lot and hits a lot of big homers as well. Its a trade off. He has 9 HRs and 29 RBIs so far, so he is nowhere near the disappointment Beltre has been.
2) Tom Glavine
Tom Glavine, who along with the great Greg Maddux, was long part of a great Atlanta rotation. He had that devastating change-up. He has won 263 games in his career and had the looming possibility of 300 in his grasp. However, that's all changed. Glavine is 1-4 so far this year with a dreadful 6.87 ERA. He has allowed 50 hits in 36 and 1/3 innings pitched, amounting to a .333 opponent batting average. That's a far cry from the Glavine who won two Cy Young awards, winning 20 games five times in his career. It seems that since that cab crash last summer the 39-year old pitching needs to call it quits, as he already has had a Hall of Fame career.
3) Oliver Perez
Perez was simply amazing last year. He was the Johan Santana of the NL. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, going 12-10 with a 2.99 ERA, 239 strikeouts, and stunning 145 hits allowed in 196 innings. He showed that great slider everyone knew about since his days in San Diego. This year has been a different story. Perez has the highest ERA in the majors, at a Hideo Nomo level of 8.03. He has gone 1-4, walked 25 hitters in 37 innings, while only striking out 29, and has allowed 46 hits. He has only had one start showing a glimmer of last year's success, striking out 9 in 7 and 2/3 innings against the hapless Astros last month. Now, Perez is having shoulder problems and hard to say if he will bounce back. Hopefully, he can get up to 150 Ks and a 4.00 ERA. That would be success to me for a guy who set such high standards last year.
4) Jason Giambi
After all the steroids controversy this offseason, it was hard to expect much from the 2000 MVP. After all, he had batted a measly .208 with 12 HRs and 40 RBIs in the limited time he played in 2004. But I didn't expect him to fall so much as he has. He is now hitting .195 with 3 HRs and 6 RBIs in limited playing time due to the breakout of Tino Martinez, who has now hit a home-run in 5 straight games. The only positive is his .386 OBP due to the walks he has had. When Giambi does put the ball in play he never hits anything hard; he's averaging about one line drive a week. He's on a pace to accumulate over 500 plate appearances with about 20 extra-base hits and 30 RBI, according to Buster Olney's article this week. The Yankees are now considering sending him to the minors, which would require his permission. I think it's time to go. Its a long way to fall from MVP to back-up first baseman, but Giambi seems to have done just that, for 17 million a year nonetheless.
5) Kerry Wood
When Kerry Wood came up as a rookie in 1998, striking out 20 Astros in a game to tie the Major League record held by the ageless and supernatural Roger Clemens (who would be on my surprises list had I not come to anticipate this kind of performance from him), much was expected out of him. As the Rookie of the Year, he went 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA while striking out 233 in 166 and 2/3 innings. However, he went down that fall and had to have Tommy John surgery. When he returned in 2000, he wasn't the same, going 8-7 with a 4.80. However, the next few years showed glimmers of his potential genius, his best year being 2003, when he went 14-11 with a 3.20 and 266 K's in 211 innings. However, he suffered another injury last year that held him back and now this year, he is having further troubles with his shoulder. Besides that, he is still having the same control issues and he has not been the same, going 1-1 with a 6.15 ERA. If Wood comes back, its hard to say if he will ever be consistently effective or if he will ever lead the Cubs to victory with Mark Prior. Makes me wonder if he truly earned the large contract he was given last year.